I Am Soooo Grapeful

by Paige Donner

One of the best wine salons of France, Le Salon du Vin put on by La Revue du Vin de France, takes place annually right around my birthday. To be perfectly honest, there’s really no better way to celebrate the bittersweet passing of yet another year than by sipping your way through the best wines of the top few hundred winemakers of France.

Cherie du Vin Clos des Goisses 2003 photo c. paige donner 1

The mission this year was to work my way through the champagnes first. You know, kind of like celebrating. : )  As a departure from years past I was intent on focusing on the pure enjoyment of a wine tasting. Just leave all the worries about making a good impression checked at the door. It was a perfect excuse to invite a fellow friend of mine – a fashion journalist from the couture world – to his first French wine tasting. I’ve been promising him for years now that people in the world of wine (as opposed to fashion) are, well, just, Happier. And that maybe he ought to come with me sometime and see for himself.

This year I promised to prove to him the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, our American founding father, who 1. Graces the $100 bill  2. Was an unabashed wine lover and 3. Was the first U.S. Ambassador to France.


Benjamin Franklin used to say, “Wine is proof that God Loves Us and wants us to be happy.”


After five hours of dragging my fashionista friend through nothing but champagne tastings, he started to get the sense of just how true the words of dear old Benjamin Franklin rang.

As much to the point, also, is how nice happy people can be, … i.e. the people you meet in the world of wine. At the end of an entire afternoon of sipping (spitting not much at all, I’m afraid to admit) Roederer Cristal, Pol Roger Vintage, Moët Vintage, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, Taittinger and the list goes on and on and on… He started to see the wisdom of my ways. By the end of the afternoon he even started introducing himself as a Wine TV show producer with me as the On-Air Talent/ Presentatrice – apparently the world of fashion already long forgotten. I told you, we were sipping some unequivocally good wines.

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All posturing aside… the question he kept asking all these illustrious makers of the world’s finest wines was, What do you look for in a wine? What makes a wine good?

And time and time again he kept receiving the answer, especially from the superstar winemakers we spoke with, that…


“What you really must look for in a wine is your own enjoyment.”  – Elise Losfelt, Oenologue, Moët & Chandon


Tasted at Le Salon Du Vin 2013 

(w/ a personal mandate to stick to only champagne)

Moët & Chandon  2004 Brut and Rosé

Moët & Chandon 1993 (disgorged 2011, 7 gr. sugar)

Champagne Alexandre Filaine, Damery

Pol Roger  Brut, Vintage 2002, Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2002

Pol Roger Winston Churchill

Philipponnat 1522 and Clos des Goisses 2003 (just released)

Roederer Cristal 2005 and Cristal Rosé 2005

Jacquart Blanc de Blancs and Brut de Nominée

Taittinger – the whole line

Grapeful Dead Concert at Lavinia

Now as if a day of World’s Best Champagne tasting wasn’t wholly perfect, the day’s finale was a concert at Lavinia by The Grapeful Dead.

They are The Best!  Classic Old Rock Songs sung by a band who are primarily Rhône valley winemakers and who get together every so often to sing in a rock band. If you’ve never had the chance to hear Classic Rock songs sung in a distinctly rustic French accent, you are missing out, my friend.

Copied below is their self-description. Everything is tongue-in-cheek so it’s best to use “translate” lest I miss a double-entendre. I think the photos speak for themselves. Lavinia was the Madeleine location and the champagne served – eh, beh! Oui! Champagne encore! – was Billecart Salmon along with the wines from the very winemakers who were up onstage crooning to the crowd.

Champagne Billecart-Salmon ainsi que de vins du Rhône (Gangloff, Vernay, Gerin, Pierre Jean Vila) en présence des vignerons, et accompagnée d’une collation.

Le Concert :

Le groupe Grapeful Dead, présenté par Yves Gangloff :

 Paul Amselem : dit “Paulo Vernay”: Piano, orgue, keyboards, lead vocal, supporter et mari de Christine Vernay du domaine Georges Vernay. “Un jour, je vous le dis, je ferai du vin,  nous menace t-il quand il est en colère… (contre nous …)”

Pierre Jean Villa : Rythm guitar, vocal. Jeune vigneron plein de passé et surtout d’avenir !

Raymond Pierrel : Drums & vibes, batteur courageux (de jouer avec nous), sa modestie est égale à son talent (énorme)

Claudius Contat : Bass, grand par la taille, du coup le sommet de son crane frôle régulièrement les nuages, mais son jeu de basse est incisif et brillant comme son esprit.

Yves Gangloff : Collectionneur de guitares, sans vrai talent, mais change de guitare à chaque morceau.

Yes. There is Oh So MUCH to be SOOOoooo Grapeful for!


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